Chapter 9:

The End Has No End

Don't Miss The Target♥

After everything, there were two people that I felt the need to apologize to.Bookmark here

First was Beth. I was reluctant about her trial girlfriend bit, but I still felt bad that I had not done enough to persuade her from even starting in the first place. I also felt guilty that her motivation to do it was because I would not admit that I had feelings for someone else. Bookmark here

After my talk with Tabitha, I sought her out. She was easy to find because she and the other girls that Dana dragged away earlier had blended in with the crowd that had gathered to watch the scene which was playing out in the hallway. I was able to ask her to go somewhere private so we could talk. Bookmark here

"You're not going to confess to me after you just confessed to Tabby, are you?" she teased once we found a quiet place in the school. Bookmark here

I was not sure how to respond to it, so I just went straight to the point. "I want to apologize to you." Bookmark here

"Don't", she said. "I knew full well what I was getting into." Bookmark here

"Still, I feel bad. I should have just kept telling you no." Bookmark here

"You shouldn't feel bad", she assured me. "I told you, didn't I? I wasn't taking no for an answer." Bookmark here

"Still-" Bookmark here

"I gambled and I lost", she continued before I could let out what I had to say. "That’s all there is to it, you don't have anything to feel sorry for." Bookmark here

“But, I knew from the start you were going to lose.”Bookmark here

“I had that feeling during our talk, but I still went through with it so you don’t need to worry about me.”Bookmark here

The conversation was going nowhere, so I opted for some drastic resolution. I told Beth "Hit me". Bookmark here

"Huh?!" she reacted, wide-eyed. Bookmark here

"I said hit me. Even if you don't want an apology, hit me so I could feel better about this." Bookmark here

She was speechless. It took a moment for her to process my request while her eyes shifted in every direction as if looking for the answer. Bookmark here

When she finally looked straight at me, I clenched my teeth expecting a slap to the cheek. It seemed she had made her decision. I closed my eyes when I saw her moving her right arm.Bookmark here

But then I heard her say "I won't, I promised after all".Bookmark here

Confused by what she said, I opened my eyes, and to some more surprise, I found the hand she had moved was not raised poised for a slap, but simply just extended towards me.Bookmark here

“Let’s just shake on it”, she stated with a warm smile.Bookmark here

I took her hand, then that was it. I was unsatisfied, but if she was alright with that, there was nothing more I could do or say. Bookmark here

The next person was Arty. I felt guilty openly rooting for him for months, only for me to try and get together with his crush. Bookmark here

The following day, I took him to an isolated place to apologize. He was quiet the entire time, so I started the conversation. Bookmark here

"I want to apologize to you." Bookmark here

He stayed silent, not making eye contact. Bookmark here

He probably did not know what had transpired the day before when I went to meet Tabitha. I did not see him among the crowd. So, I told him what I had done then. Bookmark here

He was still not saying anything, so I also told him about my history with Tabitha. I opened up about my feelings for her, too. Bookmark here

But even after all that, he had nothing to say. He was just staring at the floor. Bookmark here

I had nothing else left to say, so I tried ending the conversation, however one-sided, with "I'm really sorry".Bookmark here

He still was not reacting.Bookmark here

I then continued with my apology. "You can hit me if you want to." Bookmark here

When I said that, I actually was confident that he would not hit me. He was, after all, the timid type. The impression I had of him was that he shies away from other people, so he was incapable of violence. Bookmark here

But, that was the wrong assumption. For the first time in our conversation, he spoke. He finally made eye contact with me and said, "Then I'll take you up on that offer".Bookmark here

Then he punched me right in the mouth. I had not braced myself. It happened so quickly, I was taken by surprise that I fell backwards down to the floor. Bookmark here

Still, it was a good hard punch. I pressed a hand onto my mouth to try and ease the pain. I tried feeling my front teeth using my tongue to see if any came loose. Thankfully, they were still intact. Bookmark here

Then looking down on me, Arty said "I wish you two happiness" before walking away. Bookmark here

Note to self: don't pick a fight with Arty in the future. Bookmark here

However, our relationship since then has never been the same, so from then on our interactions had become limited. No surprises there, really. Bookmark here

As for the girl in question, the person that I had to do all that apologizing for, we were actually still not lovers yet. After my public confession, she told me in quite a panic “Let’s put this on hold for now”.Bookmark here

Then, she quickly fled the scene.Bookmark here

The response was not positive, but she had not said no either. Yet, I was hopeful.Bookmark here

I did not have to wait long for an answer because, two days later, she finally felt like talking about it. Well, it was a phone call at night, but it was better than nothing. Besides, I could understand it if she was feeling embarrassed. I also did not mind because she was not calling to reject me. Rather, it was a sermon, or more like a rant. Bookmark here

She was complaining about how it took a lot of her courage to finally bring up the topic of getting back together with me, that I had the audacity to make up a terrible excuse which gave the impression I was mocking her and then flip-flop on my decision. There were also plenty of other smaller things that she let out on me. Bookmark here

I just stayed silent and listened intently the entire time, responding only with "uh-huh" and "yeah" to let her know I was paying attention. Sometimes, apologizing if I felt the need to. Bookmark here

Once she had said everything she wanted to say, she told me "Show me how sincere you are".Bookmark here

Of course, after what I had done, it was obvious getting a “yes” from her was not going to be easy. Continuing with the conversation, I asked "How do I do that?". Bookmark here

Sternly, she answered "Think about it yourself!".Bookmark here

I was not sure what I should be doing, so I just set up a date on the weekend in hopes of appeasing her. My treat, of course. Bookmark here

She accepted. I could only hope it would be smooth sailing from there. Bookmark here

So now, I guess it is time for the punchline. Bookmark here

Saturday came. I thought judgment day for me was going to fall on the six month anniversary of my mission, which was this past Thursday, but Aphrodite had not contacted me then. When the next day came without anything happening, I figured that it would come the next time I had to make a report, and that was this Saturday. Bookmark here

Sure enough, first thing in the morning, I heard that heavenly sound from my computer notifying me that I received an email from Aphrodite. It was an invite for a video chat, which was what I expected. Bookmark here

As soon as the call connected, the lady with the long golden curly hair that appeared on my screen asked me "I assume you are prepared?" Bookmark here

Nervously, I replied "Yes". I knew what was coming. After all, I willingly went against the mission Aphrodite gave me so I was sure I was going to get a failing mark and a penalty. Bookmark here

However, I was not going down without a fight. Well, figuratively. It was not like I could hope to physically fight a god with an ability to magically take away body parts and incapacitate me. Even if I could, I did not even know where to look for her. I could try, but I was a mere mortal. I still have to abide by the rules of humanity, and that means I have to take on the cost of traveling, which I could not do as I was a broke high school kid. My best and only option was to try and reason with her. I was thinking she is the goddess of love after all, maybe she would support my own romance.Bookmark here

So before she could tell me what my punishment would be, I pleaded my case to her. I told her about my life story, my history with Tabitha, and how I was looking forward to getting back together with her. I tried exaggerating some of the details in an attempt to make it dramatic and appeal to her emotions.Bookmark here

But then, she, sounding bored, responded with “I understand you are excited with your renewed love affair, but I did not need that much details on how you accomplished one of your tasks.”Bookmark here

It felt like my plea failed, but more importantly, there was something else in what she said that bothered me.Bookmark here

“Wait”, I said. I slowly repeated the thing she said that concerned me as a question, “One of my tasks?”Bookmark here

That one phrase threw me out of a loop. My understanding of the quest given to me was that I should turn Arty and Tabitha into lovers, but I have failed to accomplish it. It also meant I had more than one objective, but I was pretty sure the email contained just that one instructionBookmark here

“What do you mean by ‘one of my tasks’?” I asked Aphrodite for clarification.Bookmark here

“What sort of query is that?” she reacted, looking bemused. “You were given two names, were you not?”Bookmark here

“I was.”Bookmark here

“And the instruction was to bring each of their love to fruition, is it not?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, and that means my mission was to bring them together as a couple, right?”Bookmark here

“Not necessarily.”Bookmark here

Dumbstruck, I paused for a moment to process her response. “What do you mean by ‘not necessarily’?”Bookmark here

She then stared me down with a look saying “Are you seriously asking these after all this time?”Bookmark here

“In other terms, your task is to have them fall in love with another person and aid them into becoming lovers. It was not necessary that you turn the targets into lovers.”Bookmark here

I bashed my head onto my desk. I wanted to scream that she should make the objectives clearer, but some part of me thought it would be a bad idea to have an outburst against this goddess, so I opted to hit the desk with my head instead.Bookmark here

“However, I do understand that one of your targets, the boy, his love interest is the other target, the girl”, she added. “I assumed efficiency was your intended approach, to complete two tasks at once, was it not?”Bookmark here

“No, I really thought the mission was to bring them together”, I confessed while my face was still planted on top of my desk.Bookmark here

“The two targets had different love interests after all”, she continued with the explanation. “In the event you succeeded in aiding to fulfill the girl’s love, the boy would be heartbroken, thus the need to have him fall in love with another.”Bookmark here

I really wanted to tell her off that she should have put all that in the email. How the hell would I know all those things with just that one sentence?!Bookmark here

I felt even worse because I could have just searched for some girl who had a crush on Arty. There was bound to be one or two, he had a decent face after all. Then I could just tell that hypothetical girl to go in strongly on him because he was the type of person where you have to be assertive as he would not make a move himself. At least, until recently.Bookmark here

Then after that, I could make a move on Tabitha and my mission would have been done.Bookmark here

However, I also realized that I had the power of hindsight. Back in spring, I did not even know she was still holding on to her promise to me and had assumed she had an interest in Arty because she called him cute. Or rather, I misunderstood that she thought he was cute. Regardless, I thought at the time that bringing the two together would have been easy, which was why I was trying to do exactly that. But evidently, I was wrong - dead wrong. So, you could also say it was also my fault for not getting my information right.Bookmark here

Another realization came to me, so removing my face off the desk, I asked Aphrodite for some confirmation. “How do you know who they were in love with?”Bookmark here

“I am a god”, she said. “The prayers of you humans are relayed to me, even if it is not directed at me.”Bookmark here

That explains how she had answered my prayers back in spring despite me not even praying to her specifically.Bookmark here

I wondered what she meant by “relayed” though. If she had said “heard”, then that meant she tries to listen to the prayers herself, but she had not so one would think someone or something is passing the message along to them. Considering Aphrodite seemed to have some tech literacy as we were communicating through the internet, I imagined the gods now have some sort of IT system which compiles all the prayers and they have access to it. But, I did not ask as there were more pressing matters at hand.Bookmark here

“YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME THAT FROM THE BEGINNING!” I shouted, finally complaining to Aphrodite. I could not bottle up all that frustration anymore. Knowing who the targets had a crush on from the start would have certainly been very helpful.Bookmark here

“Ah, but there is no fun in that”, she said as she cheekily smiled. Basically, what she was saying is that she enjoyed seeing her stand-in cupids struggle. Or possibly, maybe just me as I have not met any of my colleagues yet so I did not know if they were being treated the same way.Bookmark here

Without any other side questions, I went back to the main issue. Even at the risk of losing that one point she was giving me, I had to bring it up since it was bothering me. “You say I accomplished one task, but what do you mean by that? The two people you assigned to me don't exactly have lovers yet.”Bookmark here

“You have responded to the girl’s feelings, yes? Furthermore, you have a rendezvous with this girl later today. That is good enough for me.”Bookmark here

What an arbitrary goddess, I thought. But I did not dare say it out loud or even complain because it was going to be for my benefit.Bookmark here

“Besides”, she added. “You are already there, the girl is merely putting up a front.”Bookmark here

“Don’t tell me that!” I exclaimed. I did not want to hear that from her because it would put weird ideas in my head and might cause me to mess up.Bookmark here

“However”, she continued, ignoring my complaints. This time she seemed more serious and business-like. “You have failed one of the two tasks I designated upon you, thus I will be meting out punishment.”Bookmark here

As soon as she said that, I felt a familiar sensation of something leaving my body. Although this time, she did not seem to have taken the whole package, so I was not panicking as much as I did the first time it happened. Not to mention, I had mentally prepared myself for the penalty beforehand. Bookmark here

Still, it was a distressing thing to happen. It felt lonely when I tried to feel for that missing part.Bookmark here

“As you have completed one task, consider it your reward that I have left you your phallus and a testicle”, she stated.Bookmark here

Sure enough I was only missing one of my nuts. “But why the left?” I asked.Bookmark here

“Oh, did you not once pray to exchange it for your love to be fulfilled?” she asked me, somewhat mockingly.Bookmark here

I did, but that was more than three years ago! Plus it was a playful comment, I did not really mean it!Bookmark here

“If you want your sanction reversed, you know what you must do”, she continued. “And if it takes you another six months, be prepared for another punishment.”Bookmark here

Then the call ended.Bookmark here

I do not think I should be glad for just having one out of a pair taken from me, but I thought I could at least cope. Furthermore, I was not even out of the woods yet since apparently there was still work to be done, and if I did not accomplish it, more would be taken from me. Not to mention, the sooner I finish it, the quicker I get back what I lost, so I felt there was no time to mope around.Bookmark here

Also, I knew what I should be doing this time. There were no more misunderstandings and wrong assumptions from my part. I was thinking that, since Arty hated my guts and I could no longer easily talk to him, I could try finding a girl who had a crush on him and advise her on how to make an approach instead. If she was the chatty type, then that would be perfect since the guy does not talk much. Even better if she knew some martial art or some other form of self-defense.Bookmark here

As I was busy deliberating on what I should be doing to complete my mission from Aphrodite, I would find out that my troubles for the day were not over yet. My mom called for me saying I had a visitor.Bookmark here

I went downstairs thinking it was Tabitha who wanted to go out early because her mom had asked her to run an errand before our date. Actually, I was hoping it was her so my heart could be soothed after what had happened with Aphrodite. Bookmark here

But then, I started thinking deeper. If it really was her, my mom would have not called for me to come downstairs. My mom would have simply let Tabitha into the house and she would announce herself with a knock at the door to my room.Bookmark here

It was even more suspicious when my mom met me halfway through the stairs, and with a concerned look on her face, she questioned me in a hushed voice “What did you do this time?”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?” I asked her. I could not recall doing anything that would get me in trouble lately. At least, apart from anything related to my work as a cupid, which I had already been in trouble with.Bookmark here

“Your visitor, he looks important”, my mom replied, still speaking at a low voice. “Is he your principal? But he looks more like a high-ranking official.”Bookmark here

I would not know until I got to meet this visitor, so I gave no answer. Although, I did have a feeling of who the person was. I began to pray it was not who I was thinking of.Bookmark here

But then, I entered the living room. I found four people inside. Bookmark here

My dad was one of them. He occupied the single seat that faced the doorway. He was likely enjoying a movie until he had to entertain the guests while waiting for me. Although the volume was low, there was still something playing on the TV so I could guess that was what had happened.Bookmark here

On the couch, I spotted Eric and Fran. The former was stiff and looked a bit shaken, and the latter looked distressed as she had her hands together silently motioning an apology to me. Bookmark here

Those were two signs that indicated there was going to be some trouble my way.Bookmark here

The fourth person occupied the two-seater that faced away from the doorway, but I could tell who it was. It was Fran’s dad, looking back at me with a grimace.Bookmark here

The fact that he was together with Eric and Fran meant he was already aware of their relationship. The fact that he was visiting me at my home meant he found out his daughter got together with her boyfriend during our summer trip. But before the trip, he had implicitly told me to keep guys away from his daughter. Add those up, then that means I was in trouble indeed.Bookmark here

As soon as we said our greetings, he sternly asked me “Why don’t we take a walk outside?”Bookmark here

Oh no, I thought. Bookmark here

It did not really feel like that I could refuse. I looked at the clock. It was already a few minutes past nine in the morning, just under an hour until I had to go and meet Tabitha at her home. I just made sure to message her that I might be late for our date.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.